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Oh glorious November, you are so sweet to me. You give me a time of low billable hour goals, clients on vacation, and tons of admin hours. In a world of crazy deadlines and overtime, this month is like public accounting nirvana.
Being the overachiever that I am, I would usually take this time to rack up the extra billable hours so I could have a buffer before busy season. This way I would stay on track when the busy season billable hour goals went up like crazy town. And believe me, hitting the billable hour goals was a huge competition in my office. I enjoyed the billable hour race, probably a little too much.
By having high billable hours in November and December, I thought I was doing myself a favor. In fact, I was on a one-way train to burnout. When we are used to working so fast paced all the time, down time can feel unsettling. You actually have time to think. To think about how busy season went and what you missed.
So I would stay plugged in to avoid it. The funny thing is that there will always be more work. No one is going to tell you to slow down so I’m going to recommend some things to help you out.
Take a lot of time off
Yes, taking time off during the holidays is a given. But Americans are notorious for not using all of their vacation time. A new study by Project Time Off found that “The average worker took 16.2 days of vacation last year, down from 20.3 days in 1993.” This is almost a full workweek! And if you work for a company with unlimited vacation time, for the love of sanity, take at least the days you had before the policy change. I’m looking at you Grant Thornton employees. You deserve the vacation and you know that you’ve earned it. When you schedule your vacation time, I challenge you to take an extra day and if you are feeling especially daring, take two extra days.
Unplug from email
I know what you’re thinking -- “Shut the front door, lady. I can’t do that! What if there is a client emergency?” Just listen for a minute. I know that it can be hard to not check your email when you are so used to it every other day of the year. It becomes habitual with the smart phone. According to a recent poll by NPR, 30% of employees do a “significant” amount of work while on vacation. But by not checking your email, you will actually be more productive when you come back to work by feeling more recharged. Trust your colleagues and put up that out of office message with the email addresses and phone numbers of the colleagues on your team. If there actually is an emergency, tell your colleagues to call you. Now shut off your email alerts and go enjoy your vacation!
Make a plan
Now is the time to make a plan for your busy season and how you are going to try to maintain some semblance of balance. What is important to you? For me, it was being home for dinner with my kids each night and doing work later in the evening. I also worked from home once a week. For you, it may be going for a run or making time to read a book. It’s so easy to put ourselves last with work and kids and activities especially during busy season. So make a plan now on how you want to make busy season work better for you. No one will set boundaries for you. Make a plan and try to stick to it.